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Claim your right to breathe clean air!

Air pollution impacts our health, our environment and our economy. Clean air is unfortunately not a given in all parts of the world. Almost every day, we hear news about high air pollution episodes in different cities around the globe. They remind us time and again that air pollution is a pressing issue. At the same time, effective public participation in decision-making and transparency have proven to be the key drivers for promoting better air quality.

The good news is that we already have solutions to this problem. There are measures that Governments at different levels can take to reduce air pollution. In the UNECE region, Governments have been working together for 40 years in the framework of the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution. This has led to significant achievements, including reductions of emissions by 40 to 80 per cent, recovery of forest soils and lakes, and the prevention of 600,000 premature death annually. For its part, the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters provides a solid legal framework to promote informed and inclusive public participation and access to remedies related to air quality. The joint efforts by Parties to both agreements have thus contributed to the enjoyment of the right to breathe clean air.

At the 40th session of the Human Rights Council, the right to breathe clean air was highlighted in a report by the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment. The report highlights seven steps that States must implement to fulfill the right to breathe clean air. Participating in an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur, the secretariat to the Air Convention supported the findings of the report and suggested adding cooperation as another step for States to improve air quality. As air pollutants travel long distances, reducing air pollution has to be done at all scales in a cooperative effort. The experience under the Convention has also shown that the problem cannot be solved at the local or national level alone, but across all Government levels. Celebrating this year the 40th anniversary of the Convention, Parties are keen to cooperate with other regions to ascertain common challenges and to exchange experiences on clean air policies.